These two anchors call for progressive thinking in urban planning, through the development of a green district infrastructure that saves energy, conserves water, and is cheaper and cleaner to operate. With large tracts of land under few owners, it will be possible to coordinate investment in energy, water, and transportation systems at a district scale, a scale now recognized by green thinkers as essential to achieve carbon neutral status in the built environment. In sum, the Lower Schuylkill industrial area can become a lab for a new type of innovative industrial development by coordinating investments in infrastructure and designing them according to the best, emerging environmental practices.
We began this article by asking if the planning community and civic leaders had forgotten how to serve the city’s inhabitants. Clearly the answer is an empathic NO. But for Philadelphia to compete, its industrial lands, and in particular the lands of the Lower Schuylkill must be developed with great care. Here is a guide:
Preserve industrial land through enforced zoning
: Do not make the mistake of mixing commercial and industrial uses inappropriately as we are about to do along the North Delaware River. Instead, preserve large tracts of land so that, as the needs of our emerging green industries become clear, we can accommodate them.
Develop a new understanding of industrial location theory:
Understand, as PIDC does, that firms make decisions to locate in a place for many complex reasons. Convenient access to markets, location near research, availability of land, and proximity of workforce are factors; but also important are relationships between industrial processes that can only be understood by looking closely at what each business does on site.
Develop an understanding of green job potential:
GPIC will be looking at how to increase energy efficiency at the district level, using the Navy Yard as a lab. Can this idea be expanded to a new industrial campus nearby that takes advantage of emerging technology and nearby talent?
Develop energy and infrastructure models suited to Philadelphia at the district scale:
Research into the ways that this region, with its unique conditions, can coordinate energy, water, and transportation investments to make competitive industrial centers, and start with the sites closest to the Navy Yard and Penn.
In summary, we need to applaud and support efforts such as the Master Plan for the Lower Schuylkill
. Between now and the time it will take finish the plan, we need to protect existing
industrial land, and explore more thoroughly the urban planning dynamics relevant to future
If it is true that 1 billion square feet of industrial space will be lost–and also gained in the United States over the next decade, the stakes are indeed high that our city and its planners succeed in positioning Philadelphia to compete successfully in the fray. If we put together an optimum industrial plan for the Lower Schuylkill, we will be well on our way.
Janice Woodcock AIA, LEED-AP, is an architect and urban planner practicing in Philadelphia and previously served as Executive Director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. The author would like to thank contributors to this article: Laura Wolf Powers, Assistant Professor at Penn Design, University of Pennsylvania; Liz Gabor, Real Estate Manager at the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, Ned Rauch Mannino, Professor at Temple and Philadelphia University; and Scott Page, Principal at Interface Studio.